LOS ANGELES — Rick Wells, a veteran in the adult business for close to 30 years, passed away Wednesday at City of Hope Hospital, friends confirmed to XBIZ Friday.
Wells was best known as a top salesman for Caballero Home Video in the early 90s. His customers adored him, claiming he was one of the "most honest and truthful" sales representatives in the adult industry, according to Legend Video's Bruce Mendleson.
By craft, Wells was an accomplished guitarist playing with some of the newest and biggest rock and roll groups of the 70’s, 80, and 90’s. While he started his life as a health care worker with a degree in Physical Therapy, his true passion was music.
In order to make a living, he got into the adult industry where he found that a career XXX sales during the 80’s and 90’s was quite lucrative. He soon assembled a lavish lifestyle which afforded him more time to pursue music, Mendleson said.
"He built rock-solid relationships over the years, leaving a positive mark on anyone who knew him," Mendleson continued. "He was a loving human being and there is no denying that Rick Wells was one of the 'good guys.' He will be missed by all."
Industry vet Mike Kulich, the owner of Stunner PR and Monarchy Distribution, worked with Wells and saw him everyday for the past eight years, calling Wells' passing a "huge loss."
"We shared a love of guitars and we used to jam on the weekends before his health deteriorated," Kulich told XBIZ. "A lot of people didn’t know Rick because he wasn’t one of those sales guys that went to the tradeshows, he was the guy on the phone cold calling. So a lot of customers knew him.
"He was selling porn back when it was on Beta."
Kulich continued, "For me with DVD Makers and DVD Factory and when I started Stunner and Monarchy, I worked out of the Caballerio building. I would come into the office at about 6:30 or 7 a.m. and most people came in at 8:30. Rick was always in at 7 o'clock.
"Every day for the past eight years we sat together and had coffee, talked about sports or whatever was going on."
Kulich said when he started Stunner PR that Wells gave him a congratulatory gift — a Fender Stratocaster guitar with a naked woman on it.
"It was a way for him to say, 'I’m happy for you,'" Kulich said. "So I’ll always have this guitar. Whenever I see it or play it, I always think of him. He was one of kindest people you’ll ever meet, kind of like a Christian Mann in disguise."
The beloved executive Mann passed away last July.
"Rick was a guy that really loved the industry and really loved his job and his customers," Kulich added. "His two loves were his job and going home and playing guitar. Everyone at Caballero and DVD Factory and Stunner PR is really devastated. He was young, he was in his 50s."
Kulich said Wells sold the Barracuda line of catalog movies and comps.
"Look at any store in the U.S. in their catalog section and his product was in every single store," he said. "He really loved his job. He loved life. It was just a shame."
Exile Distribution president of sales, Howard Levine, told XBIZ he knew Wells for a long time.
"He was always a guy who really kept to himself," Levine said. "The only shows he was ever at were in the 80s. He was really a nice guy, a private guy."
Joe Walla, senior sales manager for National/Universal Distributors, said Friday he met Wells about 10 years ago when he was playing with his band and landed an endorsement with Minarik Guitars, where Wells was a rep.
"We started chatting about the guitars. Some knew Rick was a wild man for guitar as well as I am. So this was our budding bromance as they say we talked guitars for hours," Walla said. "We would get together and play riffs back and forth, then start dealings on more guitars. He also reppped a line called Peerless guitars. He wanted to hook me up with their guitars as well."
Walla continued, "I was playing Quaalcom Stadium for a big motorcycle event a few weeks down the road and he went out of his way to get a custom Gig master made for me with my name on it and shipped straight from their factory in Korea. I was blown away by Rick's generosity and willingness to help an unknown artist.
"He was always passionate about playing. He lit up when music was spoken. Rick had a great heart and would help any new artist grow if he saw there was a passion in them. Music was everything to Rick. This was a great beginning to a friendship that lasted till he passed. We both worked in the adult business for many years and we never asked about it till one day, what do you do for a living came up he said he worked for Caballero and I laughed and told him I worked at the time for New Beginnings.
"That was our next bond as well. We got together once in a while to jam and deal guitars when he had something to trade or sell but the last few years I knew he was sick and didn't think much of how serious this was to be. I know life is strange who we pick as friends and why its so. He was my friend and first artist endorsement agent. I truly appreciated he was interested in me as the artist.
"Rick was always a happy guy when we spoke. ... I really feel sad to know that time was short and didn't realize that he would be gone so fast. ... Rick was an all-around great guy who deserved to live bigger than he did. I hope he has his guitar in hand and playing away happy from the pain he may have suffered here. All I know I will miss him chatting about guitars and saying 'yep, yep' and hearing his excitement about music."